House speaker Paul Ryan puzzled by the 'dab'

Washington: In the shelf-life of viral dance moves, the "dab" was supposedly dead long ago. In January of last year, it made its political debut when Hillary Clinton notoriously demonstrated it on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

But it was old then. In fact, it had been around for so long - used for celebrating touchdowns or goals and during one particular Senate candidate debates - that even its creators agreed in June that it was time to retire the move.

But apparently, until this week, House Speaker Paul Ryan, had not caught on to the trend.

US House Speaker Paul Ryan.
US House Speaker Paul Ryan. Photo: Bloomberg

On Tuesday, the 17-year-old son of a congressman decided to give the dab a comeback, striking the pose after the swearing in of his father, Representative Roger Marshall as Marshall's family smiled for a photo. Standing next to the teenager and congressman during the photo session was Ryan, looking utterly confused. And the moment was so visibly awkward it made some C-SPAN viewers cringe.

"You all right?" Ryan asked, turning toward Cal Marshall, Roger Marshall's 17-year-old son, as the teenager tucked his head into the crook of his elbow, holding a Bible in his other hand.

"I'm all right," Marshall replied. The House Speaker and newly-sworn-in congressman continued smiling for the camera as the 17-year-old held the widely recognised pose.

"Do you want - can you put your hand down?" Ryan asked him.

"OK, OK, I'm sorry," Cal Marshall said quickly, with a chuckle and smile.

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"Were you going to sneeze? Is that it?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah," Cal Marshall said.

"He's sneezing," his father assured the photographers.

In fairness to Ryan, he is notoriously wonky, reportedly choosing budget documents for bedtime reading. And dabbing does look like "you are sneezing but you stick your other arm to the side," as the Urban Dictionary explains. And young Marshall was really doing a half-dab, since his other arm was occupied with the Bible.

C-SPAN viewers knew it wasn't a sneeze, though, tweeting about the encounter as a video clip quickly circulated on social media.

Some frowned upon the teenager's actions, while others praised his bold move. Several noted that his outfit - a red, quarter-zip sweater and khaki pants - was reminiscent of another internet sensation: Ken Bone, the man who won over America's heart and meme creators after asking a question about energy at the second presidential debate.

Later Tuesday, as video of the moment spread, Paul Ryan continued to profess puzzlement. "Just finished swearing-in photos. Nearly 300 members. Countless cute kids. Still don't get what dabbing is, though."

The Atlanta-based rap group Migos claims to have created the dance move, which was made popular in part by football star Cam Newton, who would dab to celebrate touchdowns. In June, Newton declared that he would "have to put that aside." In an interview with TMZ, even Quavo, a member of the rap group Migos, agreed with Newton.

"You got to give everybody a new trend, a new wave or something new to do so I feel him on that," Quavo says. "Everybody was copying it and now it's time to switch lanes."

Others made similar predictions even earlier. After Hillary Clinton tried the move on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in January, choreographer Fatima Robinson said, "The dab will be done in a minute and then the next thing will be up."

But, alas, the dab endured. In August, Swedish equestrian Peder Fredricson dabbed at a podium after winning the silver medal in an individual jumping final. The dab made yet another public appearance in October, as Representative Loretta Sanchez, was wrapping up her closing arguments against her rival for the state's open US Senate seat, California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sanchez spoke over the moderator as he told her that her time was up. "Remember this on Election Day," Sanchez said. "Don't vote for the establishment. Vote Sanchez." And then, inexplicably, she dabbed.

Those watching the debate on television saw Harris bite her lip, her eyes wide.

"So, there's a clear difference between the candidates in this race," she said.

As for Cal Marshall, the Kansas congressman's son, criticism of the teenager's dabbing did not stop him from reveling in his internet fame.

The congressman, however, displayed a much less enthusiastic response to his son's actions.

"Just so you know," he assured Ryan in a tweet. "He's grounded."

Washington Post